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Electrical Switchboard Manufacturing: Storing Components for Easy and Accurate Retrieval

Having to hunt for components and tools wastes time and money. Organization reduces manufacturing costs.

An electrical switchboard can include thousands of individual components. Some, such as power breakers or busbars are critical and expensive. Others are more common, such as screws and nuts. Having access to the right items, quickly and accurately, will permit the most efficient and profitable construction and preparation on every project.

Inventory management is absolutely critical. If there is not an easy and accurate mechanism for knowing what is in stock, construction will be erratic and shipping a project on time will be virtually impossible. An effective supply chain mechanism can ensure the factory maintains the minimum quantity stocks, for some items, in warehouse. This approach is also called safety stock management.

The Right Part, Every Time

Many of the components installed in a switchboard look alike. Devices must be organized in inventory, contained in appropriate bins on designated shelves such that they can be located quickly and accurately. There are many rules and guides you can follow such as placing the items used most frequently closest to the assembly area, putting heavy goods on lower shelves and FIFO (first-in, first-out) stock rotation.

As a panel builder, your business model is mostly ETO (Engineering to Order), so you normally don’t have huge volumes of parts needing to be stored. But as parts are often delivered in a package with all the components in one pallet, you need to stock some parts in the warehouse after the incoming inspection. After reception and before moving to the inventory shelf, items should be protected from dust and dirt. Many industrial environments are subject to residues that can deposit on surfaces over time. Components not used frequently might remain in inventory for a year or more and if left uncovered, can accumulate dirt and grime, resulting potentially in degraded performance.

The packaging should always have a clear identification label to show the contents such as: reference, quantity, batch number and/or bar code, etc., on multiple surfaces to make them easy to read when stacked on a shelf or in a bin. You should also add the project number information to each product to make assembly preparation more efficient.

Protecting Work in Progress

At various points in the manufacturing process, some large components, such as enclosure doors, need to be carefully stored when waiting for the next process step since they can be easily deformed and/or scratched. Both types of defects will cause quality issues during the assembly and to the final switchboard appearance, which may require replacing the damaged parts. It is necessary to construct racks to hold such items with protection for edges and critical surfaces. The racks will improve your overall workshop organization as well.

If a partially finished panel needs to be stored for a long period of time, the enclosure should be closed, even if it necessitates fabricating a temporary cover. Once parts are installed on the rails or the interior mounting panels, they are subject to the same airborne dirt and residues as unprotected parts in inventory.

Your company will be judged heavily on the appearance of your work. Selection of high quality components also tells customers your panels are designed for many years of trouble-free operation. Schneider Electric’s Panel Builder Portal offers many practical resources to help make the best design and component selection. When your shop delivers products exhibiting excellence in all areas, customers will return for additional projects.

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